Pygmalion

  • 1938
  • 1 HR 36 MIN
  • NR
  • Comedy

Shaw's magnificent comedy, a 1913 stage smash, was never better served than here, with Howard and Hiller perfectly matched as thoroughly mismatched lovers. Howard is Henry Higgins, a wealthy phonetics professor who encounters Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle (Hiller) and bets his friend Col. Pickering (Sunderland) that he can transform the uncouth and...read more

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Shaw's magnificent comedy, a 1913 stage smash, was never better served than here, with Howard and Hiller perfectly matched as thoroughly mismatched lovers. Howard is Henry Higgins, a wealthy phonetics professor who encounters Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle (Hiller) and bets his friend

Col. Pickering (Sunderland) that he can transform the uncouth and thick-accented woman ("a squashed cabbage leaf," he calls her) into a grand lady within three months. Eliza's hilarious lessons include speaking with marbles in her mouth to perfect her elocution. (When she swallows one, Higgins

calmly notes, "That's all right. We have plenty more.") Eliza turns out to be a huge success at the ball, but what to do with her now?

The film, which Howard codirected with Asquith, is a delight from beginning to end. Hiller is splendid, making an amazing transformation from illiterate to lady. Eliza's first public test, when she takes tea with Henry's mother (Lohr, marvelous) is sidesplittingly funny. You may have tears in your

eyes when Eliza goes on about her father's drinking and the fate of her deceased aunt's lovely straw hat. The curmudgeonly Shaw originally wanted Charles Laughton for Higgins, but Howard went way beyond the playwright's dour expectations, becoming the epitome of the intellectual tyrant. Sunderland

is excellent as Pickering, and Lawson, as Doolittle the dustman, is stupendous. Lawson's speeches, along with other philosophical diatribes, were cut, despite producer Pascal's promises to Shaw; the playwright despised the interpolated "happy" ending, which was also used in the stage and screen

versions of MY FAIR LADY.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Shaw's magnificent comedy, a 1913 stage smash, was never better served than here, with Howard and Hiller perfectly matched as thoroughly mismatched lovers. Howard is Henry Higgins, a wealthy phonetics professor who encounters Cockney flower girl Eliza Dool… (more)

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